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"Cannabis cures cancer!" the headlines insist. The facts are that different kinds of cancer require different kinds of treatment, and marijuana acts differently in different people. In the case of prostate cancer, however, it can often help. Here's how.

At the beginning of any article on medical marijuana, there are a few things we always have to get out of the way.

  • We only encourage the use of marijuana where it is legal to use it medically or recreationally.
  • We don't sell marijuana, its derivatives, or equipment for making cancer treatments.
  • The author, the editor, and the management of SteadyHealth are only interested in making factual information available for people.

Moreover, while marijuana can be surprisingly helpful, the author of this article is not aware of anyone who has gotten well from medical marijuana alone. Marijuana has different effects in different kinds of cancer. This article is about prostate cancer. All of these reservations having been stated, marijuana seems to be very helpful to men battling prostate cancer. It just doesn't necessarily do what you would think.

What's Special About Pot For Prostate Cancer?

When a friend of mine, a former Southern Baptist pastor, was told he had advanced prostate cancer, he asked me where he could get some pot. We happened to be at a wedding reception for a mutual friend who was a banker, and I told him, "Uh, apparently over there by the patio."

It's not hard to find marijuana. It's not especially hard to find an oncologist who will work with you if you choose to use marijuana for prostate cancer. There may be no need to be furtive, secretive, or less than forthright with your doctor and friends in most cases even where pot is against the law. (We cannot give you legal advice for your specific situation.) It is much better to work with your doctor than to keep your experimentation secret, because it is the combination of marijuana and conventional medical treatment that may give you an edge over cancer. 

Unlike some other herbal derivatives, such as curcumin, the endocannabinoids in marijuana don't fight nearly every cancer in nearly every stage of its development. These cancer-fighting chemicals seem to have one main effect: They activate genes in cancer cells that trigger a process called apoptosis.

Apoptosis is often explained as "cell suicide". Normally a cell divides at least once to replace itself as it gets old and wears out. Cancer cells multiply wildly and form tumors.  Apoptosis "flips a switch" that tells the cell it doesn't need to multiply, and it simply dies. In the case of prostate cancer cells, and not necessarily every other kind of cancer cell, a group of about 60 chemicals known as the endocannabinoids tell a prostate cancer cell to "chill out" and just relax, no need to reproduce itself. Prostate cancer cells even seem to "want" to be told they can live out their life spans without multiplying, in that they develop extra cell receptors for these marijuana chemicals.

Isn't Apoptosis What Marijuana Always Does For Cancer?

It's important to understand that marijuana does not induce apoptosis in every kind of cancer directly. In some kinds of cancers it induces a process known as autophagy, which is essentially the cell eating itself, but not "turning off" reproduction. However, in prostate cancer, the endocannabinoids tell cancer cells to stop producing certain proteins, such as prostate specific antigen (PSA). They become less sensitive to testosterone and to stress hormones. 

What isn't as clear is whether marijuana stops tumor formation and invasion of healthy tissues. Those processes involve more than just growing new cancer cells. 
 
There isn't clear evidence that marijuana helps in these phases of cancer, but there also isn't clear evidence that it doesn't.
Continue reading after recommendations

  • Cridge BJ, Rosengren RJ. Critical appraisal of the potential use of cannabinoids in cancer management. Cancer Manag Res. 2013 Aug 30
  • 5:301-13. doi: 10.2147/CMAR.S36105. eCollection 2013. Review.PMID: 24039449.
  • Mimeault M, Pommery N, Wattez N, Bailly C, Hénichart JP. Antiproliferative and apoptotic effects of anandamide in human prostatic cancer cell lines: implication of epidermal growth factor receptor downregulation and ceramide production. Prostate. 2003
  • 56(1):1–12.
  • Mind map by SteadyHealth.com
  • Mind map by SteadyHealth.com
  • Photo courtesy of eggrole via Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/eggrole/4823326716

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